State pitchers hated seeing Steve Balboni stride to the plate
Easily the most prodigious home run hitter to come out of New Hampshire, Steve Balboni was a classic big swinger. In 11 major league seasons, the Manchester-raised Balboni hit 181 home runs and drove in 495 runs, but he also struck out 856 times, including an American League-leading 166 in 1985 with the Kansas City Royals.
Balboni was a star at Manchester Memorial High School and Eckerd College, where he was named the designated hitter on The Sporting News’ college All-America Team in 1978.
It was while at Eckerd that Balboni received the nickname “Bye-Bye,” bestowed upon him by a local sportswriter for his prodigious home runs. His teammates at Eckerd included fellow Granite Staters Joe Lefebvre of Manchester and Brian Sabean of Concord.
Lefebvre would play six seasons in the majors while Sabean would become the long-time senior vice president and general manager of the San Francisco Giants.
A second-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in the 1978 amateur draft, Balboni was the Most Valuable Player of the Single-A Florida State League with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1979 and with the Memphis Sounds in the Double-A Southern League in 1980. Balboni led his minor league in home runs in six seasons and RBIs four times.
Balboni made his major-league debut with the Yankees in 1981 but played sparingly in his first three seasons, appearing in just 84 games. He was traded to the Royals in December 1983 and spent the next four seasons as the Royals’ regular first baseman.
In 1985, Balboni had the best season of his career, hitting a then-team-record 36 home runs and driving in 88 runs to help lead Kansas City to the American League West division title. Balboni set a number of personal milestones that season with career highs in homers, runs batted in (which he tied in 1986), hits (146), runs scored (74), doubles (28), triples (2), games played (160), and at-bats (600).
The Royals beat the Toronto Blue Jays in seven games to win the 1985 AL pennant then topped the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games to win their only World Series championship. Balboni hit .320 in the series but failed to hit a homer and drove in just three runs. Two of his RBIs, however, came in the series-clinching Game 7.
In 1988, Balboni was released by the Royals after hitting just .143 in 21 games, but signed with the Seattle Mariners a few days later and hit .251 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs.
He returned to the Yankees for the 1989 and 1990 seasons, but hit a combined .216 with 34 homers, 93 RBIs, and 158 strikeouts. He was cut late in spring training in 1991.
After spending the next three seasons with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Balboni returned to the majors in 1993 with the Texas Rangers but appeared in just two games, going 3-for-5 before retiring.
Since 1999, Balboni has served as an advance scout with the Giants, where he’s been reunited with Sabean. Sabean credits Balboni’s meticulous scouting reports with playing a critical role in helping the Giants win three World Series titles since 2010.
It’s safe to say Balboni’s impact on the game has been far greater off the field than on it.
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